How to Make Healthy Habits Stick
Let’s face it – most people know that if they would exercise more, quit smoking, drink less and eat more nutrient-dense foods, they could improve any chronic conditions they have.
Almost half of the top 10 life-threatening, chronic diseases in the U.S. are preventable through lifestyle changes. According to this empirical study, chronic diseases affect about 133 million Americans, or nearly half of the population.
So why is it so hard to change habits?
Ok – you are a health and wellness professional, so you have no bad habits (wink 😉
But in the past, you may have struggled to break your bad habits. And you’ve certainly seen family friends and client struggle. There are often deep-seated emotional reasons that they “need” those habits.
Maybe they started smoking in high school to fit in and feel cool. Or maybe they eat certain comfort foods because it reminds them of home and makes them feel less lonely. Perhaps they have a couple of drinks at a party to become more social.
These bad habits were useful at one point. And they might still feel difficult to give up if they trigger the reward centers that are “hard-wired” in your brain. One study of habit change found that bad habits are particularly sticky because they trigger a dopamine release.
As a trusted health practitioner, you not only have the power to educate and inspire your clients to make healthier choices, but you can help them “re-wire” their brains to reinforce those choices and make new habits and behaviors “stick”.
If your clients are ready to make big changes, here’s how you can support them.
Have them make an action plan with habit reflection
With a mere 8% of resolutions sticking for a full year, researchers at Clearer Thinking and Fast Company looked at all the techniques people used to form healthier habits. The one way that worked the best was when participants used habit reflection.
Habit reflection consists of three steps:
- Picking a past situation where the client was able to successfully change a long-term behavior or create a new habit
- Writing down anything they learned from the past situation about how to form a new habit, or any tactics they used that could be applied to make the new habit stick
- Creating a brief written plan about how to apply these lessons to the new habit
For example, if your client has successfully lost weight in one of your group programs, you can ask them to journal about everything they learned about what worked to change their habits. If they have never successfully lost weight and kept it off, they can draw on another life experience they can apply for learning.
Then, have them pick one or two tactics that they can apply to help them form the new habit.
Teach them how to break the behavior chain
A behavior chain is a series of events that happens before and after a specific habit. Let’s take stress eating as an example:
- Trigger – this is the initiating event that sets the chain in motion. It could be something like feeling stressed after a long day.
- Thought – this can be a disempowering thought that triggers the behavior like, “I had a long day, I deserve a treat.”
- Behavior – this is the action you take, either the old habit (treating yourself) or the new action (taking a walk).
- Consequence – this has the power to reinforce or undermine a behavior, depending on what action was taken.
For breaking an old habit, get your clients to focus on noticing the trigger and the thought. The more often they can perform a different behavior despite the triggers and thoughts, the more they will reinforce a new habit.
How long does it take to form a new healthy habit?
According to a study published in The European Journal of Social Psychology, it can take anywhere from 18 to 254 days to form a habit. But it only takes an average of 66 days for a new behavior to become automatic.
It all depends on how easy it is for the person to add a new behavior.
Have them form healthy habits with smaller changes
Get your clients to successfully form a new, small habit. Then, have them build on that success with a bigger goal.
For example, it’s probably pretty easy to drink a glass of water as soon as you wake up. It’s more difficult to add 3 gym workouts to each week.
Send them healthy habit reminders through the MBODY360 app
You can save a ton of time and support adoption of new behaviors and habits with the help of automated reminders delivered via the MBODY360 mobile app.
You can customize and personalize regular friendly reminders for any given day or time, when you assign your client to a new plan from the Practice Portal. Automated Reminders provide your personalized guidance and support throughout the day for you – freeing up tons of time in your day to reach more clients.
For example, if their goal is to reduce stress, you can remind them to set their timer and meditate for 5 minutes.
If they want to lose weight, you can nudge them to eat more fruits and vegetables.
Or if they’re trying to cut back on drinking, you can remind them to stock their fridge with healthy beverages.
Habits may seem like they’re hard to break. But with the right support and encouragement, you can help more clients form life-long healthy behaviors.
Break your own business behavior chain with MBODY360
Would you like to take on more clients, but your schedule is already at capacity?
Are you feeling pressed for time and overloaded with busy work?
Do you wish you could make more money without adding more hours?
The MBODY360 app and practitioner portal were designed to make your practice more efficient. It has everything that you need to streamline your business, including:
- Done-for-you nutrition plans that you can assign to clients with a few clicks
- Customizable, automated reminders to stay in touch without adding more hours
- Built-in supplement dispensary to increase revenue and support better client outcomes
- In-app messaging to streamline communications
You can use all the done-for-you features in the MBODY360 app starting today. Or we can take your proprietary plan and protocol and create a branded app for your practice.
Now is the time to put MBODY360 to work for you. Reclaim your time, break inefficient habits in your business, and serve more clients.